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Chewing is normal and necessary for puppies, who need to gnaw to help their adult teeth break through. Canine adolescence is also a prime time for exercising those jawbones. Once those gotta-chew stages are over, though, the need to gnaw continues for many dogs, especially those who are struggling to find human-acceptable outlets for their energy or to deal with the stress many dogs feel when they are left alone. For other dogs, chewing is just plain satisfying behavior: It makes them happy.
For all ages and stages, you should encourage chewing by providing safe outlets for this normal behavior. That means choosing your dog’s chew toys and treats carefully.
Whether you shop for pet supplies online, at a big-box store or at a locally owned independent retailer, you’ll find an astonishing array of chew toys and treats. While some brands (Kong is one of them) stand the test of time and are recommended by veterinarians and trainers alike, others deserve careful consideration before you buy them. In particular, be aware of three areas of concern.
Broken teeth. Think about how the wild relatives of dogs chew, using their teeth to gnaw meat off raw bones. Then look at how hard some chew toys are. Is it any surprise that chews that are hard as rocks can break a dog’s tooth? Look for chews with some “give” in them, even for strong chewers. The money you think you’ll save by buying a single hard plastic chew toy is money you could wind up spending to have your dog’s broken tooth fixed. Buying more chew toys that flex or yield to the teeth is a much better option all around. In addition to hard plastic chews, sterilized bones, antlers and other “natural” chews are too hard to be safe for most dogs.
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